Friday, 29 October 2010

Idea Development

If you've read my last post, you'll remember my promise to be a bit more consistent in my blog posting. Well, here's my second post in as many days.

Look At All The Pretty Colours

Having decided that black and white pictures with colour accents wouldn't cut the mustard, I started looking round for further inspiration. It wasn't hard to find, and it came in two forms: John Rankin Waddell, better known as Rankin, and as already stated, Edward Steichen. Both have an amazing ability to make a feature of colour. That's exactly what I want to do. Don't misunderstand me, I'm not talking about making a colour picture, but making a picture of colour (does that make sense?) What I mean is, I want the colour to be as integral a part of the picture as the subject posing. I'm not sure if that's the right attitude to have when doing a specialist certificate in people, but there you go.

Photograph by Rankin

Take for example the picture above. Without Rankin's liberal use of pigment, it would just be a standard picture, well composed and exposed, but a standard picture none the less. It's the strong contrast between the models pale skin, and the vivid colour, that really makes the picture stand out. The effect is further heightened, by the use of a plain white background and a strong light source.

Clearly I can't go around throwing art supplies in people faces (they tend to be funny about that sort of thing), I can however, use assorted other methods to add a sense of vibrancy to my pictures.


It goes without saying (but I'm going to say it anyway), that choosing the right background, is one of the most important aspects of producing a well composed photo. Although the college studio has a selection of  background boards I could use, I'm probably going to bring in my own. I've been looking around, and have found a number of different fabrics that I think would work well as backdrops. I haven't decided yet whether I'll use a single block of strong colour, or try a patterned/striped background.

Photograph By Rankin

I'm going to be producing a mixture of different  photographs: head shots, partial body shots, full body shots. That means I'm going to need a wide selection of material sizes. I think a 1x1 metre section should be fine for the head shots, but for the rest, I'm going to have to consult Marie.

As I explained with the first picture, a simple white background can also work well, but it does mean you're relying on the subject, or props, to add the impact to the photo. In order to achieve a pure white background, you have to correctly use my next subject: lighting.


For the pictures with a pure white background, I'm going to try and create a high key effect. What's high key you ask? Good question. High key photography, involves using overly bright lights to remove the majority of the shadows from the picture, and thereby reduce the level of contrast in the image. When used with bright colours, It gives the picture a real sense of life and vibrancy.

With the coloured background pictures, I'm going to try a couple of different lighting options, then see which I prefer. I'll try a high key look with some of them, but for others I'm going to try to add a little variety. I've seen a look in a few photos which I'd like to replicate. It involves allowing the colour to gradually darken as it reaches the edge of the frame, giving the subject a sort of halo.

I'm not sure yet if I'll try to achieve this practically or not. I could probably create the look fairly easily in the studio. I'd just have to use a snoot as the light source for the background, rather than the usual softboxes. If I decide to create the look in post processing, I'll just add a vignette in photoshop. Oh well, another question for Marie.


I can't really go in to too much detail about which props I'm going to use, because I'm still trying to finalise my plans.  In most of the pictures, any use of props will be minimal, but I've got one idea that calls for a number of different pieces. I'll try to explain more in a future post.

There you go. Under a thousand words.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Initial Ideas

As you've probably noticed by now, I'm fairly useless when it comes to this blog malarkey. I'm usually too busy taking photos, or coming up with convoluted schemes for taking those photos, to actually get around to posting anything. I'll try to do better in the future and be a bit more consistent.

Well I promised Marie I'd finally post my initial ideas up, so give me a few minutes of your time and I'll explain my thought process thus far.

Most of my classmates have already picked their final themes, or are at least very close. I on the other hand, have been struggling to pin down exactly what it is I want to do. I'm sure given an unrestricted budget and an endless amount of time, I could come up with a sufficiently impressive idea. Unfortunately, I have neither! 
Although these restrictions have forced me to compromise on the complexity and scope of my theme, I'll do my best to make sure they won't compromise the quality.

If an idea's worth doing, it's worth doing well

When it comes to planning, I like to be meticulous, to be sure an idea's fully formed before I release it on an unsuspecting world. That's why it's taken me so long to actually write this post. you wouldn't believe the number of drafts sitting in my blogs memory. So, where did I start? 

Marie recommended we try and add some coherency to our nascent ideas by drawing up a mind map, that seemed as good a place as any.

 I listed as many different forms of portrait photo as I could think of, then expanded on each with at least one idea. As you can see they're very basic, but I just wanted to try and get the ball rolling. After speaking with Marie again and showing her what I'd come up with, she told me to pick two of the ideas and see if I could develop them in to something that appealed to me. Of all the things I'd written, the studio and documentary ideas sparked the most interest.

Documentary Photography

I've always been a fan of documentary and street photography. Though street photography can be just as formally arranged as any studio portrait. I think a hastily snapped clandestine photo, or impromptu blink and you'll miss it shot, will often convey far more about a persons true character, than hours spent in a studio with even the most easy going participant.
The same goes for documentary photography. How many times have you seen an amazing picture, where the photographer happens to have come across a group of refugees, or a wizened old crone with a captivating gap toothed smile? That's the sort of connection I'd want to make with the person viewing the picture.

The plan would have called for multiple shoots, over several weeks. At first, I'd have tried to take as many candid photographs of the market traders as I could. I'd have tried to capture establishing shots of them in the early hours while they were setting up their stalls, and then again throughout the day whilst dealing with customers. Before finally getting them packing up. After taking these informal shots, I'd have introduced myself to them and explained what I was doing, hopefully then, they'd have allowed me to take some of the more formal documentary style shots.

Obviously for the candid shots I wouldn't have been able to take too much equipment. People might suspect something, if I started assembling a tripod next to them and taking light readings from their face.
I'd have taken my D80 camera and all three of my 4GB memory cards, I know that sounds like overkill, but something might happen to one and you never know how many photos you're going to take! I''d have fitted my 18-135mm lens, because the extra focal length would have allowed me to remain unobtrusive. 
When it came to the more formal photos, I'd have been able to pack a little more heavily. Again, I'd have taken my D80 and all three 4GB memory cards. As far as lenses go, I'd have still taken my 18-135mm, (you never know when that extra focal length will come in handy), but I think I'd have used my 50mm lens for some of the close ups. my larger lens would be able to take similar pictures, but the 50mm is designed to be as sharp as possible at the sort of focal length I'd want. plus it has a much wider aperture available, should I need it.  To help me get the sharpest pictures possible, I'd have also taken my tripod and remote shutter release. I could probably have used the self-timer function, but the subject might have been annoyed by the wait, they're there to work after all. Lastly I'd have packed my pop-up reflector. The reflective surfaces would have allowed me to add a little extra light when needed, and the black surface would have dampened any unwanted ambient light.

Although I really like this idea, there were a couple of reasons why I eventually went with the other option. Firstly, if you read many of my other posts, you'll notice a common problem...the weather! I wasn't willing to risk failing this course, because of the vagaries of the British climate. Markets are only on twice a week, and if the gods were against me I'd have been unable to get the photos required. Secondly, in order to get the morning shots, I'd have had to get in to town incredibly early. Whilst I wouldn't have had a problem with the lack of sleep, unfortunately I wasn't going to be able to fit it in to my work schedule. 

I'm aware that's an awful lot of information for an idea I've already consigned to the dustbin, but I'm not sure how detailed these things are supposed to be. Sorry!

Studio Portraits

Everyone still with me, good! I'll try to make this as brief as possible, and even include a picture or two to relieve the monotony.

This idea has gone through a number of different iterations, but I'll start by explaining the first idea, then explain the evolution in another post. I won't go in to as much equipment detail here, as that will also be covered in the other posts.

 One of my favourite photographers has always been Brian Duffy. I love the clean and simple approach he has to many of his portraits, it's often just the subject and a plain  background (more of this in a future research post.)

Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive

Now, even with all the best will in the world, a monochrome picture against a white/black/grey background, isn't going to get me a distinction on my certificate (I appreciate I'm being ambitious, but that's what I want.) So I reasoned that I would have to try and keep the general feel of those photos, but add a twist. That twist came in the form of accent colours.  I'm not claiming this idea is original, or in hindsight even particularly interesting, but it was all I could come up with at the time. 

Achieving this look would require the extensive use of props and the careful selection of certain items of clothing. I'd initially thought to use a single colour for the accents, thereby helping to form a single unified vision. I subsequently decided to use a selection of colours, as this would make each individual picture unique, whilst still adhering to the main theme.

Although this style is relatively easy to produce with a minimal amount of post processing in photoshop. My main concern, was that when done well, this look can be extremely effective, but when done badly it can make even the best picture look cheap and tacky. In the end, I just wasn't confident that I could guarantee a sufficient quality of images.

As you can see, this was the framework of an interesting idea, but it just wasn't enough. There's definitely one element I'll keep though. I'm firmly in favour of an all studio shoot. Mainly because, unless something has gone seriously wrong (or you're the victim of some sort of biblical reckoning), it very rarely rains indoors. It also gives me complete control over every aspect of the set-up and photos.

Phew, we made it. Well done!

I'm afraid there's much more to come, but you go get some rest for now. I'll try to keep the next post under a thousand words. No promises though.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Macro Madness!

Well it's half-term and I've also got a week off work. What to do...what to do? After perusing my classmates blogs, I think I'm in danger of being left behind. Not only, are many of them much more diligent in their blog posting, but their photography seems to be advancing in leaps and bounds. So, rather than sitting round twiddling my thumbs, I thought I'd spend the afternoon getting to know my macro lens.

Nikon 60mm F2.8D Af Micro Nikkor Lens

I've already used my macro lens for the course, but, rather than being any predetermined plan, it was usually because my standard lens wasn't quite giving me the picture I wanted. A perfect example of that, is the picture of the apple in my depth of field post. Although there was nothing wrong with the image my standard lens produced, I just didn't feel it sufficiently illustrated the concept of a narrow depth of field, so I decided to use my macro lens to show an extreme example. Another task I used it for was when we were asked to take 50-100 shots of the same object. This required different settings, locations and angles. I don't mind admitting it, but I was really struggling towards the end of the task. That's when I decided to break out the macro lens.

Bottle of  Sprite: Shutter 1/1000, F/5.0,  ISO 100
The Idea!

I've always liked the way macro pictures of leaves create a sort of abstract landscape. The stems and veins forming rivers and tributaries, and the epidermis almost looking like forested islands. That then was my task for the day. I left the house, and went in search of my subject. I don't know if it was the sight of a grown man wandering around collecting leaves, but I got some rather funny looks from my neighbours (maybe I shouldn't have been skipping?) Having found a selection of leaves I headed home. That's when I realised there was another problem....I really wanted to back light the leaves. Now, not being a professional photographer, I don't have access to all the fancy lighting rigs, I'd have to improvise!

Here's One I made Earlier

My DIY Macro Set-up

Here's what I used:
  • Two CD racks
  • An anglepoise lamp
  • The backing board of a clip frame
  • The perspex front of a clip frame
  • My D80 Camera, and a 4GB memory card
  • My cameras remote control
  • A small piece of polystyrene (to balance the camera)
  • Masking tape, to hold the leaves in place.
Disclaimer: I'm not in any way recommending you try this, so if you do, and you break your camera, don't blame me!

I chose the CD racks, because I knew the individual slots would allow me to adjust the height of the board/perspex, whilst maintaining a constant level. I got my Dad to cut a circular hole (just large enough to fit my lens through), in the backing board. Unfortunately, when Nikon spent millions of pounds designing  my camera, they didn't anticipate that I'd one day have to balance it on a bit of wood. So I needed a small piece of polystyrene to place underneath. Placing the lamp beneath the perspex, not only allows me to back light the subject, but by using the CD slots, I'm able to adjust the distance from the lamp and therefore the amount of light coming through. The camera remote was to eliminate any movement I might have caused when pressing the shutter release. Heath Robinson eat your heart out.

Now Then, To The Pictures!

If I'm honest, I had mixed results. As this is a learning process, I'll post the good and the bad, then let you decide.

Shutter 1.0 sec, F/51.0, ISO 100

Of all the back lit pictures, this probably came out the best. Even then, I don't think it's that great a photo. If I was trying again, there are a couple of things I'd do differently. The composition is my main concern. It feels awkward. I'd have preferred to make more of a feature of the main stem, but due to the damage on the leaf, I had to try and work round it. Back lighting the leaf has made the veins really stand out (which was what I'd hoped would happen), regrettably, it's also caused a problem I hadn't anticipated. Because the main stem's a lot thicker than the rest of the leaf, rather than be illuminated, it's actually been made darker. I could probably counter this, by using another subtle light source from the top.
By cropping and rotating the picture. it gets rid of the distracting stem, and allows me to work round some of the worst damage.

Cropped And Rotated Image

I had slightly more success, when I abandoned the idea of back lighting (for now). Instead I decided to use the lamp for directional lighting,

Shutter: 1/6, F/10, ISO 100

I like this picture, and feel the composition works much better. Instead of being a distraction, the main stem naturally leads the eye further in to the picture, and using the lamp as directional lighting has really brought out the rough texture of the surface. Because this leaf wasn't taped down and I used a wider aperture, not all of the leaf's in focus. I don't feel this necessarily detracts from the quality, but it might have been nice to try. Although the colour of this leaf isn't as striking as the green of the other one, I think it still works well.

P.S. If you're reading this Marie, I promise I'll put up some of my initial ideas soon...Promise...Just don't beat me up!

P.P.S. Sorry about all the exclamation marks!!!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Research: Edward Steichen

“A portrait is not made in the camera, but on either side of it.” Edward Steichen

I'd like to pretend, I have an encyclopedic knowledge of photographers, that when pressed, I could instantly rattle off a list of the most important and influential photographers of all time. Sadly, this isn't the case. I could probably bluff my way through a conversation with the casual enthusiast (dropping an Ansel Adams here, or a David Bailey there), but, if confronted by a genuine student of photography, I would probably only succeed, in embarrassing myself. So, having made this admission, I'd like, if I may, to introduce you to Mr Edward Steichen.

Edward J Steichen by Nickolas Muray
If I'm being perfectly honest (and that would appear to be the case), I've never heard of Edward Steichen...correction, I hadn't heard of Edward Steichen. That is, until about a week ago. Whilst looking at Marie's blog, I came across a link to: Steichen in Color. This is a book discussing Steichen's experiments with the different methods of creating colour photographs, in the early part of the 20th century. Always eager to expand my knowledge, I quickly ordered a copy, and simply had to wait for it to arrive. When it did, I wasn't disappointed. My eyes have since been opened, not only to a highly accomplished photographer, but to the great contributions he made to photographic art. As a result, I've decided to change the theme of my main assignment, and include more colour, than I'd originally intended.

Frances Farmer, September 21, 1937 by Edward Steichen

I really like this portrait, the wistful look on her face and subtle catchlights in her eyes, encourage an emotional connection with the subject. You find yourself wondering what she's thinking about while she poses. I think the texture and colour of the backdrop, combined with the muted nature of her clothes, also gives the picture an interesting tonal quality. Produced as a 33.5 x 25cm colour print,  Steichen used a complicated process known as dye imbibition. I won't pretend I understand the process, but it involved the production of three negatives, each of which would then have been turned in to dye absorbing gelatine matrix (no, me either.) these matrices would then have been placed on a piece of paper, and the absorbed dyes would have been secreted on to the paper, creating a colour image.

Charlotte Spaulding Albright 1908: Autochrome By Edward Steichen
Before taking up photography, Steichen trained as a painter. When you look at his work, you can easily see how this has influenced his approach to photographs. His portraits are often highly stylised, with the models formally posed and containing traditional props, such as a bouquet of flowers. I think this traditional approach was also the result of his desire that photography be considered a proper art form. A good example of this, is his picture of Charlotte Spaulding Albright. It reminds me of Gustav Klimt's painting Adele Bloch-Bauer I. Klimt's painting was completed in 1907, only a year before Steichen's autochrome. Looking at them, they both successfully convey the regal nature of the subject, and the texture of Miss Spaulding Albright's clothes, closely echoes the complex patterns present in the picture.

Adele Bloch Bauer I, by Gustav Klimt
Although I could never hope to replicate the complex methods Steichen used. If possible, I'm going to try and include a pose, or object in some of my pictures that will act as subtle reference to his work.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Course To Date: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Given that I haven't posted in a while, I thought I'd take an opportunity to write a brief assessment of what I've learned so far, and how I feel the course is going. Well, I say brief, but anybody who's read any of my posts to date, will have noticed I have an ability to waffle, pontificate and generally witter on, like you wouldn't believe. I'm afraid I can promise you neither coherency, nor relevance, but if you stick with me, I'm sure we can make it through with the minimum amount of pain.

The Good

I'd like to start this self evaluation, by talking about someone else (you see, I'm off already.) I'll probably get in trouble for this, and when she reads it, Marie will probably ask me to delete it (out of a sense of modesty), but I just wanted to set her mind at ease about a few things.
I can't speak for the rest of the students, but for me, the class has quickly become the highlight of my week. Everyone is incredibly friendly, and there's a great atmosphere. I know Marie has concerns about the level of time she can give each student, but far from being the result of a lack of organisation, I think it's rather that she has a great ability to put people at their ease. Couple this with her own enthusiasm for photography, and you not only engender a real passion for the subject, but unfortunately, you also create a never ending list of questions. (So it's your own fault really!)   
I also know, she worries about the different levels of experience various students have, and that some might be going over information they already know. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I can honestly say, I've learned more in the last half a dozen weeks, than in all the time I've been studying on my own. There's an old saying: “can't see the wood for the trees”, that's how I'd sum up the situation. You might know various bits of information, but you need someone like Marie, to get you to take a step back, and allow it to all come in to focus. 
I don't know if any of this makes sense to anyone else, or if it just makes me sound pretentious (probably the latter of the two!) But basically what I'm trying to say is... Relax, you're doing great!

P.S. Don't ask me why I talked about you in the third person, throughout that whole thing. I'm not really sure myself.

Right, I'd better actually talk about some of the things I've learned in class.

The Humble Aperture

Along with the Shutter speed and the ISO level, the aperture is one of the most important settings on the camera. Without knowing about the aperture, it will be incredibly difficult to get a correctly exposed photograph. A camera contains an iris, when you set your aperture, you are basically determining the diameter of that iris, and therefore, how much light is allowed through, and on to the sensor, or film. The diameter of the iris, is expressed on the camera, as an f/stop e.g. 4,5.6,8.
The important thing to remember, is that the the f/stop number is the inverse of the width of the aperture, so a small number, actually represents a wide aperture, and a large number a small aperture. Each number up the scale should allow half the level of light through.
The other use for the aperture is determining the depth of field you want in your picture. Depth of field simply means, how much of the area between the foreground and the background, do you want in focus. A wide aperture gives you a very narrow DOF, so only a small amount of the foreground is in focus. Whereas a narrow aperture, gives you a wide DOF meaning much more of the background is in focus.

Wide aperture: F/5.6, ISO 100, Shutter 1/6

The Shutter Speed

The shutter speed also determines how much light is allowed to pass through to the sensor or film, but rather than restricting the flow of light with its diameter, it works by opening and closing, for a predetermined length of time. The longer the shutter is open, the more light is allowed through, and the brighter the resulting image will be. Shutter speeds can vary hugely from something like 1/1000th of a second, up to 30secs. You can also set the camera to bulb mode, this keeps the shutter open for as long as you hold the button down. Each increment on the scale, will either halve, or double the amount of light coming through the lens. The length the shutter is left open, also allows you to either, freeze an object in motion, with a fast shutter speed, or to illustrate movement with a slow shutter speed.

Fast Shutter Speed: 1/400, f/5.3, ISO 100

ISO sensitivity

The ISO number, denotes the level of sensitivity to light. In the days of film cameras, it allowed you to recognise the sensitivity of the film, but in a digital camera, it represents the sensitivity of the cameras image sensor. By setting the sensor to a higher ISO, you're able to take photos in much lower lighting conditions, using a faster shutter speed, and a narrower aperture. Although early films were available in much slower speeds, the lowest sensitivity level on most digital cameras is ISO100. The downside of raising the ISO level, is that it can create more noise on an image.

It would appear this is less of a post and more of a tome, so I'll move on to other subjects, and return to the good things in a later post.

The Bad

The area I'm struggling with most, is research. I don't have a problem finding photographers I like, or pictures that inspire me. The problem is, making any of it appear relevant to my chosen theme. I think having recognised the time constraints of the course (and my level of skill), I've picked a fairly simple theme and that's where the trouble lies. My classmates have picked fantastically original themes, and they post reams of information that's relevant to their subject. I on the other hand, can barely rustle up a quote. I'm aware this makes me sound petulant and jealous, but I am, so there!

The Ugly

We were let loose in the studio for the first time the other day:

Friday, 8 October 2010

Evaluation Of Composition Task

After all my careful consideration and planning, I set off, thinking this would be the easiest of the assignments we had been set. Sadly, when making my grand plans, I failed to check the status of my destination, and subsequently discovered that it's a private square and not the public right of way, I'd always assumed.

When selecting equipment, I had to make my choices, knowing just how busy Birmingham can be. Although I took an identical selection to the first task, (my camera, the standard lens and a tripod), I knew that I might not be able to actually use the tripod. As it turned out, I would only need the tripod for the photograph of the columns.

Of the three images, the picture of the columns, is the one I'm disappointed with. I think the overall composition of the photograph works well, but, I do think that the columns themselves are overexposed. Given more time, I'd have opted for a faster shutter speed, in an effort to create a more balanced exposure. The intervention of a security guard, however, meant I wasn't able to recompose the picture.

The picture of the flowers turned out exactly as I wanted (though this might hint at a lack of compositional awareness, rather than any inherent skill!). I wanted to separate the flowers from the general background, but still maintain the context of the garden. The use of selective focus (and the resulting narrow depth of field), achieves this efficiently and effectively. The vibrant, but not overpowering, profusion of colour, is also what I wanted to achieve. As far as the image of the statue is concerned, I'm neither pleased, nor displeased with it. Again, I think the overall composition works well, but for some reason, I don't think the image really “pops”.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


The third task we were set, asked us to take 10 photographs, each of which would show the aspects of composition: lines, frame within a frame, patterns/texture, balance, angle, reflections, shadows, distance, colour and focus. We would then pick three or four of the photographs, which we felt illustrated a number of these aspects.

Leading Lines/Shadows/Texture/Abstract

Shutter Speed: 1/125,  Aperture: F/5.6, ISO 100

After thinking about a number of different locations for this assignment, I finally settled on Brindleyplace in Birmingham. I knew the square contains a number of different archways and monuments and I thought they'd provide interesting subjects for the various different compositional techniques. In this photo, I wanted to frame the columns so that they would not only be an example of abstract photography, but also, so that the angle would lead the eye in to the picture and towards the shadows. The different size and style of the floor tiles further helps the picture, by adding texture.


Shutter Speed: 1/60, Aperture: F/4.5, ISO 100

Unfortunately, (due to the intervention of a friendly security guard,) I wasn't able to take all of the photographs I'd planned in Brindleyplace. This necessitated a quick rethink. The day before going to Birmingham, I'd visited Attingham park in Shropshire and knew I'd taken another picture that would demonstrate multiple composition methods. This picture was an attempt (using selective focus,) to isolate the main flowers from the background, whilst hinting, at the presence of the others. By allowing the flowers to take up two thirds of the frame, it clearly makes them the focus of the picture, but still offers a glimpse of the surrounding plants. Another advantage of this type of composition, is that it allows the vibrant colour of the flowers, to dictate the overall tone of the picture, without completely dominating the frame.

Angle: Low/Tilted

Shutter Speed: 1/125, Aperture: F/5.6, ISO 100

After leaving Brindleyplace, I was walking through Victoria square, when I noticed the ornate fa├žade of a nearby building. I quickly set-up my camera and focused on one of the two statues which hold up a balcony. Due to the busy nature of the square, I wasn't able to use my tripod, so had to switch to a fast shutter speed of 1/125, in an effort to reduce the camera shake. I felt the statue would make the most interesting subject, because the beard, muscles and assorted other embellishments surrounding it, help to add patterns and texture to the image. The slightly off kilter angle of the picture, in my opinion, makes for a more interesting composition, than the traditional approach.

Evaluation Of Aperture Control

This was our second task and the added difficulty of choosing multiple subjects and locations, didn't really help to put me at my ease. Although I had some initial thoughts and ideas, unfortunately, the changeable weather forced me to rethink most of them.

I decided to stick with a very similar set-up, when it came to the equipment I used: my camera, the 18-135mm lens and a tripod. The only addition I made was a 60mm macro lens, for the shot of the apple. Due to the poor weather that week, I used the tripod for almost every shot. In order to get the photo of the apple I wanted, I had no choice but to use the macro lens, as my standard lens just wouldn't focus at the range I was asking it to.

The main problem with this weeks task, the weather! I had to scrap most of my original ideas, because the light just wasn't available. Even on a very high iso setting, the fast shutter speeds and narrow apertures I'd been asked to use, came out looking incredibly dark. I'm not very happy with the picture of the tennis ball. Because I had to use the on camera flash, I think it looks very flat and poorly lit. Although the forest path makes quite a good photo, I'd have liked to have found a view with more interest in the foreground.

I think overall, the other pictures came out quite well. The photo of the apple clearly illustrates how narrow the depth of field is (which was my original intention,) and rather than simply composing it with the apple in the centre of the frame, placing it to the left makes for a more interesting view. The shot which blurs the water, could have probably been composed better, but at least shows the effect a long exposure has on the subject.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Aperture control

For our second assignment we were asked to take four photographs, but this time, we had to concentrate on the aperture and shutter settings. The photos had to be taken using: a fast shutter speed, a slow shutter speed, a wide aperture and a narrow aperture.

Narrow Depth Of Field
For this photograph I wanted to isolate the subject, so that you could clearly see just how narrow the depth of field was. In order to achieve this, I set-up a backdrop using a white piece of A2 paper, then placed the apple far enough forward that the aperture would render the backdrop as one continuous colour. Because my standard lens wouldn't allow me to focus properly this close to the apple, I replaced it with my macro lens. I placed the camera on my tripod and again used the timer mode to minimise the level of movement. Using the natural light from a nearby window, meant I could use a fast shutter speed of 1/250, which also helped to keep the level of movement down. To get the correct depth of field I set the camera with an aperture of F4.5.

Wide Depth Of Field

With this photo, I needed to illustrate a wide depth of field. I decided on a landscape picture, because it would provide a mixture of foreground and background interest. I composed the picture so that the path and angle of the trees would lead the eye towards the back of the frame. Because of the shade provided by the tree canopy and the fact it was a relatively dark day, I placed my camera on a tripod and set the shutter speed to 2.5 seconds. To get the wide depth of field, I set the aperture to F22.

Fast Shutter Speed 

Although I had originally intended to freeze a car in motion, or a bird in flight, the weather was against me yet again! I therefore decided to use my new home studio, where I would have more control over the amount of light. With the help of my dad and a tennis ball, I was able to get the required shot. I placed the camera on a tripod, switched the flash on and set a shutter speed of 1/125. A wide aperture of F4.5, also helped to let in more light.

Slow Shutter Speed

For the final photograph, we had to use a slow shutter speed to blur a subject whilst it was in motion. I went to a local park, which I knew had a fast flowing river and located an area with rocks, as I thought they would provide an interesting counterpoint to the blurred water. Because the task required a slow shutter speed, I once again set the camera on a tripod and used the cameras timer function. To blur the motion of the water, I set the shutter to 1/4 of a second, then decided on an aperture of F11, so that the rocks would all be in focus.

Light Trails

As I had completed the task quite quickly, I decided to try and use a slow shutter speed to capture the light trails of late night traffic. Setting up my camera and tripod on a bridge overlooking the motorway, I set a long exposure of 30 seconds and an aperture of F11. The medium aperture would help to ensure the long trails would remain in focus. Like the woodland path in the earlier photo, I tried to compose the picture, so that the light trails led the eye in to the picture, and the light of the nearby town, would provide some interest at the top of the picture.

Evaluation of Light task

This was the first task we were set, and as such, I approached it with a certain sense of trepidation. Wanting to get it right, I considered a number of different subjects, but none of them would, in my opinion, offer an interesting photograph at all times of the day. I therefore finally settled on the local church, which I knew was picturesque and would be illuminated at night.

Given that this was our first task, I decided on a relatively simple equipment set-up. I had my camera, the standard 18-135mm lens and a tripod for the night shots. Given the large range of focal lengths the lens provided, I feel it was the right choice, as it allowed me to selectively zoom in and therefore minimise the unwanted objects in the frame. Although I didn't need it for the majority of the photographs, the tripod was a necessity for the night-time shot, as the long exposure would have been all but impossible to achieve by just holding the camera. I also decided to use the cameras timer function to minimise the level of movement.

Although I'm relatively satisfied with the choice of the church as the subject, I do feel that there were a number of issues, which given more time, might have been handled better: Due to the position of the church, (with the river to the left and a newly built house on the right) I had a limited choice of places to position the camera, and this had a negative effect on the overall composition. For the morning and afternoon shots, I wanted to capture the different directions of sunlight and how they would affect the overall tone of the picture, but unfortunately was foiled by the poor weather conditions. Because of the limited angles available to me, I also struggled, when it came to setting up the night shot. The inclusion of a street light, coupled with the long exposure, meant that some elements of the picture were overexposed.

Despite the problems I encountered, I do feel that there were a number of things in the composition that worked well. The inclusion of a section of the river, helps to provide some foreground interest and by offsetting the church, I was able to provide a glimpse of the surrounding area, thus adding context to the building.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Light Task

For this task, we were asked to take four photographs, each at different times of the day: morning, midday, late afternoon and night-time.


This first shot was taken just after 7:00am, because this was simply a matter of recording  the light levels, I left the camera on the auto setting. The shutter speed was 1/100 of a second, and the aperture was F5.3.


This shot was taken at 13:00pm. The higher level of light required a much faster shutter speed of 1/500 of a second, so that the highlights wouldn't be blown. A similar aperture of F5.6 was used.


This photo was taken at 6:30pm. Due to the falling light levels, this photo was taken using a longer exposure of 1/80 of a second, and a wider aperture of F4.8.


I took this photo at 8:30pm. I wanted to try and capture the interesting light on the church, so switched the camera to shutter priority mode and placed it on my tripod. I set the camera for a long exposure of 3.0 seconds, but was still forced to adjust the exposure a little in photoshop. The camera set an aperture of F5.3.